Western Traveler

Tips and Tricks

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CAMPING IN WINDY CONDITIONS – Camping in heavy winds can create some unique problems. One situation to deal with is having your tent stakes pulled out of the ground during heavy winds. I’ve found that by replacing my nylon tent cords with lightweight bungee cords that this problem is not as noticeable. The stretching of the bungee cords absorbs the energy of the wind instead of pulling the stakes out.

TENT STAKE PULLER – Here’s a neat little trick for you. To save your hands the misery of trying to pull cold, metal tent stakes out of the ground with your bare hands first thing in the morning, make a make-shift stake puller. All you need to do is to take a piece of parachute cord and make it into a loop about six inches in total length. Tie the ends off with a “water” or “barrel” knot. Then, clip it into a carabineer. Just slip the loop around the top of the stake and pull it out, works like a charm.

HEAD SAVER – If you’ve ever tried to hike through the rain with a heavy wind, you already know how hard it is to keep your poncho from blowing off of your head. Try this; put your ball cap on the outside of your poncho. Not only will it keep it in place, it will also shield your eyes from stinging raindrops.

IT’S IN THE BAG – One of the greatest inventions for hiking and backpacking is the Ditty Bag. Imagine if you will, a small, nylon or cotton bag with a draw string and cord lock. You can divide you gear into categories such as: First-Aid Kit, Repair Kit, Toiletries, etc. Each one can be identified by a separate color. In a pinch, you can even use these for emergency gloves in the event you forgot yours and got caught in a snowstorm.

CAMERA CARE – If you’re like me, one of your prized possessions has to be your faithful camera, the instrument whereby you capture the majesty of all your travels. If you’re going to be out on the trail, and the weather is “iffy”, try this. Get some bubble wrap, a couple of large rubber bands and a ZIPLOC bag. Wrap the camera in the bubble wrap, bind it with the rubber bands and zip the whole thing into the ZIPLOC bag. This system is about as “bomb proof” as you can get in the field.

NAVIGATION TRICK – If you’re hiking in the Great Wide Open and want to reduce your “map time” try this. Check your topo map and find some huge land feature in the general direction you’re planning to go. Make a mental picture of it and start heading toward it. If you’ve picked something large enough, you won’t have to pull your map out every few feet to check your direction and heading. As you near your final destination, then get out the topo and follow it to where you want to end up.

MATCH CARRIER – One of the neatest gizmos on the market is the match carrier. These come in metal or plastic and offer you a waterproof container to carry your matches in. They usually include: a liquid-filled compass, a mirror, whistle and of course match compartment. They can be carried in your pocket or on a lanyard. Ounce for ounce, well worth the weight. If you ever get lost, you’ll be glad you brought it.

BAKING A LA TRAIL – Have you ever gotten the urge to “bake” something on the trail? Here’s a simple way to make your culinary dreams come true. Try tossing some hot coals from your campfire on the lid of your pot while cooking with your stove. If the coals aren’t ready, you can build a small fire right on top of the lid. This gives you heat from above and below. Biscuits, cornbread, cookies or whatever can be at your beckon call. NOTE: Non-stick cookware gives the best results.

EMERGENCY SHELTER – One of the worst things that can happen to you is to get caught out in severe weather, or after dark without some shelter. Depending on where you’re at, there are several options which come to mind for shelter construction. In many locales you can utilize natural rock shelters. If none are available, and if you’re in a forested area, use downed boughs to build a “lean to”. I always carry a “space blanket” and a few trash bags with me. These in conjunction with parachute cord and locally-available anchoring materials can be used in a pinch to make a shelter to get you out of the elements.

EMERGENCY LIGHT – This may come as a surprise to you, but sometimes you get caught out after dark. ALWAYS carry a light source with you. My preference is a flashlight or headlamp with LED’s. They burn brightly and run for many hours on a set of batteries. Even if your plan is to get in and out during daylight hours, you never know what can happen. Carrying a light source can make the difference between getting home (or back to camp) or spending the night in the wilderness unprepared.

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Last modified on: September 27th 2023.
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